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Villaraigosa Pushes For Transit Expansion Cash

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Villaraigosa In DC

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) For the second time in as many weeks, Mr. Villaraigosa has gone to Washington, and he has a message for Capitol Hill: we need your help.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa testified before a U.S. Senate committee in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to promote his plan to speed construction of transit projects, calling for improved financing measures from the feds to help boost the national infrastructure.

“Cities need the federal government to approve a national program of innovative financing tools for transit infrastructure construction,” Villaraigosa told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Mayor: Federal Funds Could Create 160K Jobs

“We must spend tax dollars more wisely and leverage the available funding smartly,” he said. “New partnerships, new financing mechanisms and innovation are essential to building infrastructure in many regions.”

Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative calls for constructing a dozen major transportation projects in Los Angeles County — including a portion of the so- called “Subway to the Sea” and a regional connector to link several light rail lines passing through downtown Los Angeles — in 10 years instead of 30 as initially planned.

The cost of building the projects over 30 years is $18.5 billion, while accelerating construction to 10 years would reduce the cost to $14 billion, according to the mayor.

Los Angeles County voters agreed in 2008 to pay for the transportation projects with a half-cent sales tax increase. Villaraigosa is asking the federal government and other entities to help finance the construction now, and agree to be paid back over time.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the committee, said she believes “the 30/10 initiative can serve as a model that can be replicated in many cities and states across this country.”

Villaraigosa also was scheduled to meet with a bipartisan group of members of Congress today and speak on behalf of the proposal on Wednesday at a roundtable organized by a liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress.

This is Villaraigosa’s second trip to Washington in two weeks. He was in the capital last week for a two-day meeting of the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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